Installing a field high tunnel and a greenhouse to extend the production season of pesticide-free crops for the McGill feeding McGill project
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McGill feeding McGill" is a very sucessfull partnership between the Macdonald Campus Farm and McGill's Food and Dining Services (now SHHS). However, the crop production season is fairly short even though the demand for fresh vegetables is at a peak from September through April. In the Fall semester, as daylength shortens and weather becomes cooler, vegetable yields decline. We typically get killing frosts in mid October. These frosts essentially stop all production of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and other crops that are used abundantly in McGill's cafeterias. This project proposes to build two new structures at the Horticultural Research Center on the Macdonald Campus to improve our food production capacity in terms of quantity, quality and seasonality.
The first part of this proposal is the construction of a low-input "high tunnel" which would enable us to increase our pesticide-free vegetable production capacity for the McGill feeding McGill project. High tunnels are unheated, plastic-covered structures that provide protection from rain and hail, reduce the incidence of certain fungal diseases that are destructive to crops and create a very favourable growing environment for crops by increasing soil and air temperatures. High tunnels can also protect sensitive crops (like tomatoes) from light frosts, both at the begining and end of the growing season thus allowing us to produce for a longer time. We are trying to eliminate the use of pesticides at the Horticultural Center of Mac Farm and growing under tunnels is another tool we can use to achieve this. Field-grown vegetables are suceptible to a range of fungal and bacterial diseases. Growers frequently spray pesticides to control these diseaseas. Growing vegetables under a high tunnel reduces the need to spray.
As the second part of this project, we are proposing the instalation of a low-input greenhouse to grow crops from October to December and again early in the spring (March-May) under heated conditions. This greenhouse would also be used as a place to properly "cure" fall squashes, sweet potatoes as well as dry garlic (in the early fall); "curing" is needed to prolong storage life of certain vegetables and thus be able to supply "McGill feeding McGill" with certain vegetables into the winter semester.
The proposed project addresses issues of food security in a changing climate, reduction of environmental impacts of food production as well as the education of students, staff and the general public.
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